Practical Spirituality

The Gurbani is a true Guide of practical spirituality. Because, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is very logical, realistic, totally free of non-essentials (i.e. dogmas, phony formalities or Karamkaand, antagonistic adherents, etc.), thus down-to-earth and a practical Way of life.

Spirituality is not merely going to a Gurdwara once a week for an hour or so Sunday. Instead, according to the Gurbani, it’s understanding, remembering, acting, or living 24/7 in the Shabad-Surrti (‘ਸਬਦ ਸੁਰਤਿ’, consciousness attuned to the Wisdom or Upadesh of the Gur-Shabad etc.) — ‘Twenty-four hours a day’.

  • ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ॥੩॥: Twenty-four hours a day, O mortal, remember Prabh (Mool, Source, Jot Saroop…). ||3|| (sggs 191).
  • ਮਨ ਰੇ ਅਹਿਨਿਸਿ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਸਾਰਿ ॥: O mind! Day and night, enshrine Hari’s Divine Virtues (sggs 21).
  • ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਜਾਗੁ ਹਰਿ ਚੇਤਿ ॥: O my mind, remain Awake (Aware) night and day, and remember ‘Hari’ (Mool, Source, Jot Saroop). (sggs 27).

Thus, as envisaged by the Gurbani, SIKHI IS NOT A PART-TIME JOB!

Instead, Sikhi is living 24/7 the Gurmukh-Lifestyle — a Divine Lifestyle of the Divine Virtues guided by the Divine Wisdom of the Gurbani.

Fittingly, the Gurbani’s edict is that the Way of Sikhi is in constant learning and living the Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad.

  • ਊਤਮ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥੩॥: The ultimate action is Reflections on the Shabad – Shabad Vichaar ||3|| (sggs 158).
  • ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥: Sikhi sikhiaa gur veechaari (sggs 465).

In fact, according to the Gurbani, the only way to serve the Guru or the Satiguru is through the Shabad-Vichaar or churning the Gurbani!

Accordingly, the Gurbani says that anybody devoid of the Shabad (Upadesh, Wisdom…) is as dead in this world!

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਜਿਨੀ ਨ ਸੇਵਿਓ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕੀਤੋ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਮਿਰਤਕੁ ਹੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥: (Those beings) who have not served the ‘Satiguru‘ (through the Shabad-Vichaar), no Wisdom has Awakened within them, (they may appear as alive but they) are as dead in the world (spiritually dead-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). (sggs 88).

The Shabad-Vichaar bestows upon us the Wisdom, which clears out the troubled and wandering mind, making it stable — still, intuitively balanced, peaceful, free of Sootak etc.

  • ਜਿਉ ਮੰਦਰ ਕਉ ਥਾਮੈ ਥੰਮਨੁ ॥ ਤਿਉ ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਮਨਹਿ ਅਸਥੰਮਨੁ ॥: As a pillar supports a building, similarly, the Gur-Shabad is the mind’s support. (sggs 282).
  • ਸੋ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਾਚੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨ ਰਤਨੁ ਸਾਰੰ ॥੬॥: That mind is pure, which enshrines Truth within, and the most excellent Jewel of Wisdom dwells in that mind. ||6||  (sggs 505).

What is Spirituality?

Though spirituality is difficult to define, in nutshell, it’s all about how a human conducts himself with all other beings in daily life.

It brings about the best in a person, hence it is what a person can be, given the intense longing and commitment for Inner Growth, Mool-abidance (Jot Saroop...).

In short, it is a Gurmukhs lifestyle, an embellished life (ਸੰਵਰੀ ਹੋਈ ਜਿੰਦਗੀ), committed life unconcerned about shame of the worldly people (ਲੋਕ ਲਾਜ), a life of sacrifice, a life of Braveheart, a life of Virtues (ਗੁਣ), a life of Wisdom, a life of Truth (Sach), a life of high spirit (ਚੜਦੀ ਕਲਾ), a life of knowing own self; a life free of falsehood, a life free of flattery (ਚਾਪਲੂਸੀ), a life free of ‘Parpanch’ or ‘Pakhand’ or imitation, a life free of false ego-sense (Haumai), a life free of sense-slavery, a life free of Bikaar (i.e., lust, anger, greed etc.), a mind free of ‘Sootak‘ or impurity, and so on.

  • ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥ ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥: If you desire to play this game of Divine Love with Me, then step onto My Way putting your head on palm. When you place your foot on this Way, give up your head (false ego-sense), do not be afraid or shrink ||20||. (sggs 1412).

Once Enlightened (the Gurmukh-hood), he cannot help being what he is (Jot Saroop … ). Come worldly temptation or any danger, nothing can change his nature from what he is. Throughout history of the world there have been such people (e.g., our Gurus, Bhagats …) who have set example for others through the Perfect Life they lived (Pooran Pada).

Nothing could push them, pull them or split them. They handled trying circumstances with composure or coolness. Their Spiritual eminence made it possible for them to retain the Vision of Pure Awareness at all times and yet relate to the ordinary world.

They live in the world but not of the world, They live in the midst of Maya, but detached. Theirs the Real Spirituality! Difficult to define indeed! But, clearly, it represents the Essence or core of the human personality.

Religion and Spirituality

The Universal Dharma is one. However, man-made, organized and institutionalized religions (Majhab) are many.

Hence, the real spirituality begins where religion ends.

Proper understanding and Bibek Budhi (discriminating intellect) are needed to differentiate between religion and Spirituality. Those who have become the Gurmukhs use various similes to help us grasp the differential as follows:

  • Consider a tree with fruits. Religion is the finger pointing at the fruit (i.e., Spirituality) urging us that if we eat that fruit (Spirituality) we will gain Spiritual Realization (Mool-abidance). But Unfortunately, the majority of us (over 99.9 percent category) keep holding on the finger and just keep looking at the fruit (Spirituality) from a distance, instead of eating it. What’s the result? We miss out Spirituality.
  • Next simile explains the difference between religion and Spirituality is that of the coconut. If we want to eat the flesh (Guddaa, kernel) of the coconut and drink the liquid from inside of it, then we need to open the outer shell (brown fiber) of the coconut and reach the inside — the essence. If we keep holding on the outer hard shell and keep biting on it, then we will miss out the liquid and the kernel (Guddaa) inside — it’s essence. If religion is compared to the outside of the coconut, Spirituality is then the inside of it (Guddaa or kernel): its Essence. In Spiritual ignorance, the majority of us mistake the inside for the outside! Just imagine, if one keeps chewing the husk and the outer skin of the coconut, he will only make his mouth bleed! Implication is that, if we do not go beyond the body-consciousness, we will never taste our True Nature (Jot Saroop).
  • Another simile includes surface of the ocean and pearls that lie beneath its surface. If religion is compared to the surface of the ocean, Spirituality is like pearls that lie hidden deep beneath the surface. Now, if we just stand at the bank and keep counting waves, we will never attain pearls. To get to pearls, we will have to jump into the water and dive deep in it, beneath the surface (as the swan or Hans). The bank is static and stagnant. Thus if we just stand at the bank, we will go nowhere: we will have no Inner Growth, no Inner Development or Transformation, and no change in vision.

Spiritual quest

Although the SGGS reveals to us that we all have the capacity to abide in our Mool (Jot Saroop or Original Nature…) ‘here and now’, but only a ‘rare‘ person develops the taste for real spirituality.

The SGGS also teaches us that both worldly and Spiritual Life can be led side by side successfully provided we shun the negative impact of Haumai and the resulting Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, attachments, pride, and their numerous variations).

Thus the Gurbani’s approach is very practical, logical, free of dogmatism, religious paraphernalia and life-denial. In other words, the SGGS does not Teach us a theoretical or reactionary spirituality that would further bind us to Maya.

Instead, the SGGS teaches us Spirituality in action — practical Spirituality — and provides all that’s needed to resolve the tangles that plague us in the course of our day-to-day-life. Of course we must be determined, committed, earnest, willing to surrender false ego-sense (Haumai) and put forward the best self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar) to become Spiritually fit.

  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).

As to how a person can lead both worldly and Spiritual Life side by side successfully has been beautifully explained in the SGGS.

  • ਹਾਥ ਪਾਉ ਕਰਿ ਕਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਚੀਤੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੨੧੩॥: Do all the work using your hands and feet, and connect your mind with the ‘Niranjan‘ (Maya-free Rabb). ||213|| (sggs 1376).

In nutshell, the crux of real Spirituality is the quest to know one’s Real Being (one’s True Nature, Mool, Jot Saroop…), within.

Thus, the sure way to Spiritual Progress seems to be remaining detached even while leading an active life in the world. True detachment is to live without likes and dislikes (e.g. love and hate…).

  • ਜਉ ਲਉ ਭਾਉ ਅਭਾਉ ਇਹੁ ਮਾਨੈ ਤਉ ਲਉ ਮਿਲਣੁ ਦੂਰਾਈ ॥: As long as this (mind) believes in love and hate (i.e., likes and dislikes), it is difficult (for this mind) to meet (its Mool, Source, Jot Saroop…). (sggs 609).


  1. One can find the definition of spirituality in a Quote from SGGS ji as
    Prabh keejai Kirpa Nidhaan Hum Hari Gun Gaavai-Gey
    Jotee Joti Milaaye Joti Rul Jaavain-Gey
    SGGS ji.

  2. Sat Sri Akaal; I am very grateful for the Web in English….and the effort of Bhai T. Singh on teachig Gurbani.
    with respect yours humble servant.
    Sabbar Singh Khalsa.

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